Head Coach John Harbaugh
Can you elaborate as to why Steelers games are your favorite two weeks of the year?
It’s pretty obvious I think. It’s just a great game, great rivalry and it’s always really hard-fought. I think if you’re in this business as a coach, as a player, in any capacity, as a writer, you probably enjoy these kinds of games, right?
Does the addition of new players on both teams change the rivalry at all?
No. It’ll still be great. It’s a great rivalry. It’s a great game.
Re: People saying you ran-up the score against Oakland with the fake field goal when you were ahead:
I explained it twice now and it’s pretty clear-cut why. There were still 20 minutes left in the game. They were in an overloaded formation where they had a higher probability of blocking the kick. So, when you run plays, whether it’s an offensive play or a special teams play, you have to do the things to keep the other team honest and make them play a little more straight, and that’s why we did it. Also, that’s an explosive offense over there and teams always have the capability of coming back. It’s our job to give our players the best chance possible to win a game and that’s what we tried to do.
If you were down by three against Oakland, would have called the same play?
Sure. Why not?
Re: Preparing your defense to face the Steelers without QB
It doesn’t change too much because they’re going to run their offense. Byron is fully capable of running their whole package. He’s a proven veteran quarterback, he’s very smart, he’s a tough competitor and he’s got great arm strength. There’s never been any doubt about that. It doesn’t really change much as far as how we prepare. Obviously, you’re looking at a different quarterback and there are some nuances there but it’s not dramatic.
Can Leftwich extend plays, but just in a different manner than Roethlisberger?
I would say so. Every quarterback has got their own style, their own format and Byron is going to play to his strengths, just like any quarterback or any other player would.
Your defense seems to be transitioning. Is that health related or are you embracing some newer philosophies?
I don’t know about newer philosophies. I don’t follow you. I don’t know that we are. What are you talking about?
It looks like you’re not rushing as much as we’re used to seeing. It looks like different personnel packages than we’re used to seeing.
We’re not rushing as much as we used to on defense?
It seems like you are blitzing less.
You’ll have to check the numbers on that. I think you’d find that’s not true.
Re: Guys like Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe moving into bigger roles in place of guys who had been there for a while:
Those guys have been a part of our program for a number of years. Those guys you just mentioned have been guys we’ve been developing and that have played a lot of ball for us here. In some ways, they’re taking on bigger roles because we did transition some personnel, some of the guys that left via free agency. Those guys have done a good job. You have to do that. There’s always turnover as far as personnel. It’s a tough game and hopefully those guys will be up to the task.
Do you like the idea of these two teams playing twice in three weeks?
I don’t know if I like it or dislike it. It’s just kind of is what it is. It’s a challenge for both of us. I’m sure we’ll both show up on time for both of those games.
Was the decision to bring back QB Dennis Dixon to protect him from coming back to Pittsburgh or did you need another quarterback?
Was Pittsburgh going to bring him back? I wasn’t aware of that.
With Ben hurt, maybe they would put Dixon back on the roster somewhere:
Have you heard that? If there’s some information along those lines then it’s probably a question to address. But if you haven’t heard that and it’s a rumor or speculation then it’s probably not worth addressing as a question.
Linebacker Terrell Suggs
Is your heart broken that you won’t face Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday?
[Laughs] It’s like I knew that was going to be your first question. It’s not really broken but with a rivalry game you need all the pieces for the game to be how it should be. It’s a little disappointing but you have to move on.
Re: Playing against the Steelers:
This is the game the whole NFL is waiting to see, the most heated rivalry in sports.
Re: Licking your chops at the sight of Byron Leftwich:
No. At the end of the day, we still have to play the Pittsburgh Steelers. We know everything that comes with it. These two teams don’t like each other because they are so similar. They say you can never cross paths unless you have a few things in common. If you look at the history of the two teams, they have a lot in common. It’s still Ravens-Steelers. I think it will be everything it always has been.
He is from the draft class of 2003. I instantly think a lot of him. That was one of the best draft classes the NFL has ever had. Look at the numbers and the guys that went in the first round of that draft, you’ll find a couple studs in the draft. As a player, it’s been 10 years now, so he’s obviously doing something right.
How much do you expect the Steelers offense to change with Leftwich in there?
Not much, if any at all. I don’t expect it to change. I think that it’s still Ravens-Steelers, it is at Heinz Field and they’ll show up to play football. One thing’s for certain, so will we.
Can you talk about the Ravens transition on defense?
Absolutely not. You all are the Pittsburgh media. We don’t want to let our secrets out of the case. There are some little things different but not much. There are some small, little personnel changes here and there, utilizing our numbers and the characters that we’ve got.
Re: Being ranked 26th on defense:
We’ve been ranked higher before and still don’t have a championship to show for it. I don’t know how much the numbers really matter at this point but we just have to get better each week and work on executing.
Do you feel any extra pressure with LB Ray Lewis being injured?
No. This defense has always revolved around each other, the 11 men on the field, not particularly one man. But he is the leader of our defense and his shoes can never be filled, but the guys we have now are doing a pretty stand-up job. We lost Ray last year for four games and we went 4-0 in that stretch. It’s a task that we don’t want to have to do but if we have to it can be done. Until he comes back, we just have to hold the levee.
What makes this a batter rivalry than Steelers-Browns or Ravens-Bengals?
When it comes to these two teams, there are not two other teams that are more physical. These are the two most physical teams in the NFL. That’s just what it is. There’s a similarity between the two. The two teams battle and it’s just something different. This matchup sends shockwaves through the NFL and no matter who others teams play, they can’t wait to watch this game.
Has the hatred level on your end diminished since Hines Ward retired?
No. It’ll never diminish as long as the colors are the colors. But I’m going to be totally honest with you. It’s definitely not going to be the same without him out there. I think the game will lose a little bit not having 86 on the field. It’s going to be a little different if number-seven [Roethlisberger] plays or not. It’s going to be different not having 52 [Lewis] out there. Both sides are going to be missing pieces that makes this rivalry everything that it is. It’s going to be different but the game must go on, the show must go on. I’m going to be totally honest with you. It’s going to suck not seeing the tradition of players that have played in this game. But, like I said, the show must go on.
So, there won’t be a lot of trash talking, right?
Oh no. There’s going to be a lot of trash talking. Please believe that.
So, you and G
Me and Willie? We’ve always exchanged pleasantries. We really just talk about downtown. [Laughs] I think we both occasionally watch “Basketball Wives” and “Real Housewives of Atlanta” so we’ll talk about the episodes.
Has the culture changed with your team by the offense being more accountable or more responsible for what happens?
No, I think it’s more of a 50-50 split, whereas in the past the defense was more dominant than the offense. But now, they’ve been having some success and they’ve been playing good football, so now it’s more of a 50-50 split.
Are you guys okay with that?
Yeah, we’re okay with that. I mean you can never be mad at your offense for having success. That’s always good.